After the March flooding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recover and safely dispose of containers of potentially hazardous material scattered by the floods.
Under a FEMA collaboration with Nebraska Civil Air Patrol support, EPA staff and contractors provided technical support while also conducting aerial and land-based examination of the flooded areas, including surveying 800 miles of the Missouri, Platte, Niobrara, Elkhorn and Loup rivers. They marked out-of-place container locations and entered the data into a Geographic Information System app for later collection.
Since operations began March 27, the EPA has recovered over 2,200 containers, which include drums, tanks and canisters, washed away by floods and the contents were disposed of or recycled, as appropriate. The tanks contain mostly oil, fertilizer, chemicals, liquefied petroleum gas and other hazardous materials.
Persistent heavy rains and flooding means some containers remain inaccessible from land. Megan Schuette, EPA On-Scene Coordinator, believes these isolated containers will have to be recovered after the floodwaters decrease later this summer. “If you see abandoned containers that have been displaced by floodwaters, report them. Then trained professionals will be able to identify containers that may contain chemicals or other potentially hazardous materials,” said Schuette. Call your local emergency manager or the state’s “Orphaned Containers from Flood” hotline: 877-253-2603.
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